Thursday, December 12, 2019

Trip Planning Time

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

I've been back in Louisiana for a little over three months. During that time, I've visited with the family, especially the grandkids, did some repair work on Liberty and maintenance work on both Freedom and Liberty. Overall the weather has been nice with only one short spell of low temperatures down in the low 20's. Using my two ceramic space heaters, I'm good with temperatures down to about 25 degrees. Below that I'll sometimes turn on Liberty's furnace. I guess over the last 5 1/2 years, I've used the furnace maybe a half dozen times. But, I know the possibility of freezing weather is increasing as we get closer to January and February so I guess I'll be "forced" to take a little trip to warmer weather. 

Sometime around the first of the year, I'll be taking a slow trip to south Texas. My ole saying is "A destination with several journeys along the way". My departure date will depend on the local weather as well as the weather where I'll be heading. I'll also try to factor in full moon times, high/low tides along the Gulf coast, holidays, etc. Until I get farther south in Texas, I'll also be on the lookout for Blue Northerners blowing in from the plains. Those things can get it "colder than a ______ (you can fill in the blank with some body parts from a witch or well digger, your choice). 

I figure the trip will last two to three months and I'll be back here in mid-March or so. Afterwards, my long range thoughts for the heat of the summer are a trip up to D.C. by way of visiting some old Tennessee Valley Dams and the Smoky Mountains along the way. 

For those that have followed Brandon's ordeals over the years, he is doing great. His monthly blood-work continues to be normal and both organs are doing their jobs flawlessly. It's still an ongoing miracle and his attitude is an inspiration.

This post was just an update and I'll end it with a few family pictures.
The whole family. Now a days, Thanksgiving is about the only time everyone gathers in one place at the same time. It was a good time.

All four grandkids.

The boys playing some touch football in the front yard. The same front yard all three of our kids played in when they were growing up. The tradition carries on.

A professionally taken picture of Olivia and Nathan

Olivia invited me to the Veteran's Day service at her school. Of course, I thought it over a lot and after about a split second I said 'yes'. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm not sure I can say 'no' to her. Hmmmm,,,,, 
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Trip Re-cap

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana (elev 300+/-)
All pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 Cell Phone

The complete circle
I arrived at New Rockdale RV Park early Wednesday afternoon. For the last few years, it has been serving as my home base campground. It is good to be back and stationary for a little while so I don't have to be thinking about places to go or reservations to make at some campground. Maybe while I'm here I'll look for a piece of property and set up my own site to serve as my home base. Oh well, we will see.

A quick look at the numbers on this latest trip:
14 states
47 days
4,800 miles of towing Liberty
19 campgrounds (12 public, 5 private, 2 Walmarts)

My memory pictures are at the bottom of this post with captions. There are a lot more pictures than I planned, but oh well. 

The beautiful things about trips are that no matter how well you plan them, something always comes up to change the plan. Sometimes those things aren't nice, like Liberty's water pump going out on this trip. Most of the time though it seems the unexpected becomes some of the highlights of the trip. 

On this trip some of the unexpected/unplanned things were:
** the bird attack while I was walking on the trail at Copper Breaks State Park near Quanah, Texas
** the Raton Museum in Raton, New Mexico
** the road trip over and past Blue Mesa Reservoir Dam, west of Gunnison, Colorado
** Skyline Drive in Canon City, Colorado
** Box Canyon Falls Park in Ouray, Colorado
** the campsite at Massacre Rocks State Park in American Falls, Idaho
** the two Walmarts I over-nighted at in Laurel, Montana and Sidney, Nebraska
** Petit Jean State Park near Russellville, Arkansas

All of these unexpected gems are covered in the posts from the trip.

A few quick observations from the trip. 
1) There is not a bridge in Wyoming that doesn't have a dip before and after it. It is the worst state in terms of bad bridge ends. 
2) Although Wyoming has problems with all of their bridges, Louisiana has the two worst bridge ends on this trip and any other trip I've taken recently. They are located on I-49 southbound, between Louisiana highways 1 and 2 in Caddo Parish. About a dozen or so miles south of the Arkansas/Louisiana state line. If you hit these dips at highway speed, it can cause serious damage to your trailer. If you pass through this area, try to situate yourself where you have another vehicle ahead of you by about a half mile. This will give you enough time to slow down to about 40 mph before hitting the dips. I reported these dips to the authorities about a year or so ago, but they have yet to repair them. Be careful, very careful.
3) There seemed to be a lot more homeless people in the larger cities than I've noticed in the past. It is still hard to tell if they are con-people or truly people in need of help.
4) Love's Truck Stops have moved up my list of places to look for when towing. Most of them are newer than other truck stops and they are designed to handle large RV's. They also have a variety of pre-packaged, easy to eat while driving, great burritos, 2 for $4.00. Too many "truck stops" are not designed so RV's can maneuver around the gas pumps. I will continue to look for Flying J's/Pilot because most of them are RV friendly as well as most will give Good Sam members a $0.05 discount on fuel. 
5) Freedom did a fantastic job towing Liberty and me over the high Rocky Mountain passes. Never had a problem either going up or down. I do wish the states would post more signs. They need more signs showing how far ahead the downgrades begin as well as signs saying how far it is until you reach the crest or when you will finish the steep parts of the downground. Something like "Greater than 5% downground next XX miles". There are some states that do an excellent job with signing, but there were a few places that caught me by surprise due to the lack of proper signing. 
6) Walmart camping is OK for me under certain conditions. Two of those conditions are having night-time temperatures between about 55 and 65 and not having anything to explore in the area. The temperature is important because I don't want to sleep in a hot trailer. Also, since I'm not going to drop my RV in a Walmart parking lot, I won't be able to explore anything in the area. Thinking back over my years of traveling and 250+ campgrounds, I can think of maybe a dozen one night stands where I could have used a Walmart and saved time and money. Oh well, live and learn.
7)  The trip was nice, but I wish it had been a little cooler. I did use my ceramic heaters a time or two to warm Liberty up a little bit. Mostly though, the heat wave seemed to have followed me everywhere I went as if I were a "weather Jonah". I did bring a little cooler weather to Louisiana but it seems to have been short lived as the mid 90's have returned. 

Here are the pictures. I've chosen the ones that will spark my memories when I look back on them in the years to come. I have several pictures that do just that from all of the places that I've visited over the last 5+ years of RV'ing. 

This was my first view of the "open road". This picture is taken somewhere just west of Fort Worth. Prior to this, all of the views between Mansfield and Fort Worth are essentially the same. 

I've seen these abandoned homesteads all over the country. I'm glad they have not been torn down so they can remain as a reminder of the life and times of generations past. I try to take pictures of them to document the lives spent at these locations. It is easy to visualize children running and playing around the house,,, a clothesline full of clothes flapping in the West Texas breeze. Oh well, lest we forget. 

The view from the campground at the top of Raton Pass in Raton, New Mexico. It was a great view of the storm approaching from the south. 

Not counting the mountains around Raton, New Mexico, these are the first sightings of the Rocky Mountains. It is from west of Pueblo, Colorado near Haggard's RV Park.

This is before the big storm hit Haggard's RV park. A micro-burst or straight line wind rocked Liberty like she has only been rocked a couple times before. It was worrisome and exhilarating at the same time because you could see the heavy wind and rain coming at you. 

Skyline Drive in Canon City, Colorado. This narrow one lane road running along the top of this "hogsback" ridge will get your blood a pumping. I was lucky in that I was mostly alone and could stop to take in the view. This was a surprise because I didn't find out about it until a day or so before riding it. 

Sitting in the parking lot at the top of Monarch Pass, Colorado. It is the location of the Continental Divide and a lot to take in before going down the other side.

Snow capped Rocky Mountains in the distance. I never got a real close up view of them on this trip, maybe the next time.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison. That is the Gunnison River in the bottom. I have had this place on my "to see" list for a few years. I was not super impressed by it, but I attribute that to my expectations being too high.

This is at the bottom of the Black Canyon. I enjoyed a picnic lunch in the cool temperature and quiet serenity of this location. It was very peaceful and whenever I think of this place it will bring me a sense of peace. 

The Rockies as seen from The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Sometimes when I look at them I think of the mountain men who explored this area. They experienced true freedom.

The waterfall at the Box Canyon Park in Ouray, Colorado. This is another one of those unplanned places that I learned about at the last minute. The water just shoots out of the side of the mountain face with a tremendous force and loud roar. I again was lucky to be the only one there for about half the time I explored it. Great stop.

In my mind, this is what Northern Utah will always look like.

How lucky was I to get such a great campsite in Massacre Rock State Park, American Falls, Idaho. I randomly chose it when I made my reservations and it blew me away with the view. Great campsite.

Shoshone Falls located near Twin Falls, Idaho. This was a planned stop. Just like the Black Canyon, this place has been on my "to see" list for a few years ever since it was posted on the Gypsy and the Navigator blog. Thanks again Barb. It would be worth a return trip during the spring time/early summer when the falls are really flowing full. 

Another old homestead. This must have been a very fancy house at some point in time since it is a two story home. If the house could speak, what kind of stories would it tell???

I hope the memory of this place will always stay with me. It is the Columbia River just downstream of where the Snake River joins the Columbia. It is a special place because it is from this location that I did a video call with my granddaughter, Olivia. I wanted her to see the Columbia and some of the surrounding mountains. 

This picture will remind me of the long boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene. I couldn't choose a picture from the tour so I opted for this one. It is taken as I'm about to get into Freedom at the end of the tour. The tour boat, parking lot and nasty weather will all be a nice memory. 

I overnighted in two Walmart parking lots on the way back to Louisiana. This picture will represent both stops. This is the first stop at Laurel, Montana. I arrived later than I planned due to heavy traffic on the way. The time was maybe an hour or two after sundown and the temperature was in the mid-60's with a nice cool breeze blowing. It is a good memory. 

Looking down on the Arkansas River from Petit Jean Mountain near Russellville, Arkansas. The view was great and the legend believable. It was a nice day.

Murray Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River with The Big Dam Bridge on top of the lock and dam. It was a nice walk on a semi-warm morning. As usual, I was mostly alone with my thoughts. 

That's the Arkansas River on the left and part of Maumelle Corp of Engineers Campground on the right. The RV with the sun shining on its side is Liberty. This was taken from a nice bench located in the shade of a tree. 

New Rockdale RV park. Not a glamorous campground but the location in relation to my family is good. Those tall pine trees to the right provide shade from the setting sun starting around 3:00 in the afternoon. The site has some sewer problems that the owners have not dealt with yet. I may move to another campground or campsite in the days to come.
Well, that completes the re-cap of this trip. Overall it was a good trip and I'm satisfied with how it turned out. I've had some great visits with my family in the short time I've been back. Olivia and Nathan have grown a lot in the six weeks I've been away. My next trip is already circulating in my mind. When will I ever grow roots and settle down??
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Big Dam Bridge and Maumelle Campground

Location: Maumelle Corps of Engineers Campground; Little Rock, Arkansas (elev 260 ft)

all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 cell phone

19th and final stop
This is the last stop before getting back home and today is day four at this campground. It's a great Corps of Engineers campground right on the Arkansas River but still close to all of the big city things you may want or need. I chose to spend these days and the ones at Russellville as sort of a decompression chamber from the trip. When I travel quickly, as I have done in the last several weeks, my sense of time and events get distorted. I've experienced this ever since I began RV traveling a little more than five years ago. A lot of it has to do with the speed at which I travel. When I'm changing campgrounds every two to three days and traveling over landscapes I haven't seen, it sort of overloads my senses. It's as if I'm on high alert all the time. For X-Navy folks, it's as if I'm constantly at General Quarters. I have thought about this over the years and figure it has to due with my brain/mind/memory receiving a constant flood of new things without a chance to rest. When I'm stationary for longer periods of time new things are rarer and rarer so my mind has a chance to back to normal. It has time to process and file away memories. For me, I call it "letting time catch up".
This picture was taken as I was hitched up and pulling out of the Old Post Road Campground in Russellville. An older lady, probably late 60's to early 70's, is staying in that campsite/tent. She is dressed in really nice clothes, has make-up on and jewelry. She was dressed as if she was going somewhere fancy. She set up camp the day before I pulled out. After hitching up I noticed she was sitting in her chair, reading a book. I walked over to ask if she needed anything since I noticed she was alone. She said she was going through a divorce and this was now her home until things got worked out. At least she has a nice truck. She said she didn't need anything so I left her as she began a walk in the campground with another woman who came from a large motorhome. It's a reminder that things can always get worse. 

Campsite B-01 at Maumelle. It is steep and short but the only one available for the four days I was here. It has good shade. 

I had to back up far enough to get to the level part of the campsite. 

I got lucky and was able to straddle the concrete bumper block to get Liberty's wheels back far enough. Once off the pavement, everything was nice and level. It turned out to be a great campsite after all.

A view from the campground at the Arkansas River. The white dot in the lower right is a guy fishing near the boat ramp.

They have a couple of benches, but this picnic table made the best picture.
Ok, now that I've admitted to being a little crazy, let's see one of the reasons stopped here other than to let time catch up. The Big Dam Bridge is a bridge that was added to a Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River near Little Rock. It is a pedestrian/bicycle bridge and supposedly, the longest in the world at 4,226 feet. At least that is what the plague reads as you enter the bridge. It was not part of the original construction of the lock and dam so it had to be retro-fitted onto the dam structure. I can imagine the amount of discussing and cussing that happened when it was first proposed. It took eight years from conception to completion. I wanted to walk it for the fantastic view of the lock and dam. It is a view that is rare except for maintenance workers on the dam. I walked about out to about the middle of the river and turned around. The total distance was less than one mile. It was a nice walk and I went before the temperature got too hot.
See the sign at the left. They call it the big dam bridge. I bet some thought I made the name up on the title to the post.

It's a little steep at the beginning, but not really too bad.

First glimpse of the dam and river. 

Looks like all the gates are opened maybe half way. They are creating lots of turbulence just downstream.

They have a screen on the top of the walkway when it is directly over the lock. I figure this is to prevent people from throwing things on the tow boats.

Looking down into the lock chamber. A lot of barges pass through here but not much since the recent floods from last month.

Looking upstream. The structure on the left is the approach to the locks.

They have a nice "bump-out" on the walkway so you can look directly down on the gates. 

A bench with a view looking upstream.

A nice American flag flying proudly.

A house with a view of the river and dam.

A better house but not as good a view. 
Other than the Dam Bridge, I've been taking it easy with walks around the campground and going out to eat. I had a great Reuben Sandwich the other day at a place called Gandolfo's Delicatessen. It ranks in the top 10 that I've had from places around the country. The best in recent memory is still the one from a little cafe in Hinckley, Minnesota, population less than 2,000.

I emptied my waste tanks when I got here at a nice dump station. I'll add some Borateem and Dawn to my tanks today and allow tomorrow's 260 mile trip agitate the contents. The Borateem and Dawn will coat the insides of the waste tanks and help keep them cleaner. Calgon works better than Borateem but it is super hard to find liquid Calgon in Walmarts. I also have to strain the Borateem so grains of sandy material doesn't end up in my tanks. They will harm the seal on the valves. Awwww,, the joys of RV'ing.

Tomorrow is moving day and I plan to reach New Rockdale RV Park, in Mansfield, Louisiana sometime in the early afternoon. There are thunderstorms predicted for the area about the time I plan to arrive so I'll be watching my Accuweather Radar to keep track of them. I may have to slow down or speed up.

I'll post a Trip Re-cap in a few days. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Legend of Petit Jean and Lake Dardanelle

These multiple stops are beginning to be a bad habit. This post will cover two stops with moving day being tomorrow. Oh well, sometimes laziness is an art form, maybe not in this case, but I've heard it said before. 

1st location: Lake El Reno Campground; El Reno, Oklahoma (elev 1,375 feet)
Current location: Old Post Road Campground (COE); Russellville, Arkansas (elev 325 feet)

Thru Stops 18 and 19
After leaving Hunters Cove Campground, I towed a little over 400 miles to the city owned campground at El Reno, Oklahoma. It is located about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City and I've stayed there before. It is a conveniently located campground that is first come, first served. When I arrived around 5:00 p.m. there were about 6 or 8 available sites. I picked one with 50 amp service, set up, turned the A/C on high and went to town to get something to eat. By the time I returned to the campground, Liberty had cooled down so I could watch a little TV before turning in. I hadn't seen much TV in a while. Obviously, there was none at the two Walmarts and only PBS channels at Hunters Cove. I didn't find anything interesting to watch so I just turned in early. I thought I would get some TV reception here at Russellville, but didn't pick up any TV stations.

Campsite at El Reno.
Nice layover campground.
The next day was a much shorter tow to Russellville, Arkansas about 90 miles west of Little Rock. Just like El Reno, I've stayed here before. It was a few years ago when I came here to see the dam that created the very nice Lake Dardanelle. I wanted to see the dam since my father worked for the contractor that built it. I won't go into that in this post but if a reader is interested, they can find the post by using the archive listing by date (6-14-17) on the right side of the blog or use the search function. It's a great little Corps of Engineer's campground but it took a beating from the river flooding a month of so ago. The campsites closest to the river and the one I stayed in last time are closed because the river bank was undermined during to the flooding. When the water went down it left several feet of sand covering their boat ramp. The gates on the lock was also blocked due to sediment. It must have been really bad around here at that time.
My current campsite, at least until tomorrow. Old Post Road COE Campground. Nice shade with electric/water. I would have stayed here longer but these four days were the longest I could reserve at the same campsite.

You can see how much sand was covering the boat ramp. They cut a path so the Corps could launch their boats. 

A view of the Lock and Dam. My father was the Project Superintendent during most of its construction. The lock gate that was blocked must have been quickly dredged to get navigation back in operation. It is also a Hydro-electric dam and has been producing electricity for almost 50 years. 

There has been a strange sheen on the water downstream of the dam ever since I've been here. I'm not sure what it is and I won't speculate.

This fireplace and bench is located on the back porch of the Lake Dardenelle State Park Visitor's Center. It's a good view of the lake.

Passing rain storms have been coming around here every day. This still is a pretty good view of the lake.

Across the Lake is a Nuclear Power Plant. It is one of two located in Arkansas. Between the two, they produce about 77 percent of the electrical needs of the state. For information: there are about 60 nuclear plants in the lower 48 states. The last nuclear plant came online in 1996 in Tennessee. More needs to be built.
One of the things I didn't do last time I was here was visit Petit Jean Mountain. It's an interesting story and I'll try to make it as short as I can but still keep to the legend/story. I like to think it is true, every bit of it. 

She was a French girl named Adrienne DuMont and was due to marry an important Frenchman named Chavet. But before they could marry, Chavet was sent on a mission by the King to explore the New World. In this case, his exploration include crossing the Atlantic, going up the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River and then explore the Arkansas area as far upriver as they could go. It sounded like a great adventure to Adrienne so she asked to go along. Chavet flatly refused and said it would not only be too dangerous for her but also unlucky to have a female on the trip. Well, Adrienne, being a hardheaded determined person and small in stature, decided to disguise herself as a boy and get hired by the ship's captain. Her plan worked and she was hired as the ships cabin boy. The captain and crew called her/him "John" and since she/he was so small, they called her/him "Little John". In the French language "Little John" is "Petit Jean". Notice, the masculine form "petit" instead of the feminine form "petite". Doing away with the French accent by "Arkansas'ing" the name, it sounds like "pettijean". Similar to "petticoat" but with "jean" (like levis) instead of "coat". Dang that was a lot of " "'s. 

Anyway, she kept her real identity a secret even though Chavet, her fiancee, was on the boat with her. Everything was going good until they reached the part of the Arkansas River near here. They met local Indians and were invited to spend the summer here and continue the exploration in the fall of the year. All went well and they explored the local mountains. As fall approached, Petit Jean fell sick. Real sick. It was during this sickness that the crew discovered her real gender. Knowing she was not going to make it, she asked to be buried on top of the mountain overlooking the river and their campsite. After she passed away, they did as she asked and buried her with a "forever view" of the river and land she had grown to love. Instead of naming the mountain using her real name, they named it "Petit Jean Mountain". Her gravesite is still there and "wow", what a view.

Petit Jean's grave with her view of the valley.
(I ain't saying she's there and I ain't saying she isn't)

Her view of the bend in the Arkansas River looking upstream.

Looking downstream

They have built a nice walkway around her site and they allow you to scrabble on the rocks.

This is a great view from the bench. The bench needs a back though.

Another back-less bench.

Showing the quality walk-way they've built.

The stairs lead down the rocks where you can be as crazy adventurous as you feel.
I've been here for four days and tomorrow is moving day. It will be a short tow of 90 miles to another Corps of Engineers park located in Maumelle, Arkansas (outlying town near Little Rock). I'll be there for four days as well. I'm pretty sure I'll get some TV reception with being so close to a big city. I don't have a lot planned for my stay there, but we'll see what I can find.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.